The Baltimore Ravens opened up more than one hole on their offense when they traded Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown to the Arizona Cardinals on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft. He wasn’t just the best friend of their franchise quarterback, Lamar Jackson, on and off the field among his teammates but he was also the team’s top deep threat on offense.
Not only did they trade away their first player at the position to record a 1,000-yard season since Mike Wallace in 2016, in doing so they shipped off the most potent speed element in their passing game. Brown’s ability to take the top off of opposing defenses and stretch the field vertically with his blazing speed during his three seasons in Baltimore opened up more space for his fellow pass catchers at the intermediate level and allowed the running game to face lighter boxes at times.
After not filling the void in the draft, the Ravens could explore the unrestricted free agent market and trading block in their quest to find another speedster. Here are two realistic options for each avenue that that would be inexpensive in both cap space towards a free agent and draft capital in a trade for a young wideout on a rookie deal.
WARNING LABEL: This list will not include D.K. Metcalf or Deebo Samuel as neither of their teams have expressed an interest in trading them despite constant speculation from the media. It also won’t contain notable veteran free agents like Odell Beckham Jr, and Jarvis Landry who are either coming off injuries and don’t possess top-end speed at this point in their respective careers.
Will Fuller, Free Agent
The Ravens just let an often-injured former first-round wide receiver walk in free agency in Sammy Watkins. However, what Fuller brings to the table that makes him worth a flyer is that when healthy, he is among the most dangerous deep threats in the league. He was limited to just two games in 2021 due to injuries and recorded just four catches for 26 yards in his uneventful one-and-done year with the Miami Dolphins.
Fuller averaged nearly 15 yards a reception in his first five seasons in the league with the Houston Texans. Now that signing unrestricted free agents no longer counts against the compensatory pick formula, bringing in the 28-year-old burner on a heavily playing time incentive-laden one-year prove-it deal would be a solid pickup with the most upside of anyone else that will be mentioned on this shortlist.
DeSean Jackson, Free Agent
The ‘OG speed demon’ can still get behind and blow the top off of opposing defenses despite being in his mid-30s. He proved that with two different teams in 2021, averaging 27.6 yards on eight catches in seven games with the Los Angeles Rams and 19.4 yards on 12 catches in nine games with the Las Vegas Raiders. He was used sparingly in both offenses despite showing flashes of the playmaking ability that he still possesses at his advanced age.
Jackson had a few bad drops but so did Hollywood and seemingly every other well-known speedster but nobody bats a thousand which is why they are referred to as home-run threats. He won’t command anywhere near top dollar given his age and the stage of the offseason post-draft. In addition to bringing his ability as a speedster, Jackson would provide tremendous leadership for a very young Ravens’ wide receiver depth chart in which no player at the position currently on the roster is older than 25-years-old.
Darius Slayton, New York Giants
The former 2019 fifth-round pick out of Auburn got off to a hot start to his career in his first two seasons in the league and it could’ve been even hotter if he had consistent quarterback play. He averaged 15.4 yards per catch as a rookie and 15 yards the following year and recorded over 700 receiving yards in each of those seasons. He ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, shows some nuance when running sluggos and double moves, and tracks the ball well downfield.
Like most of the members of the Giants offense in 2021, Slayton is coming off a down year where he appeared in 13 games and finished with career-lows in receptions (26), receiving yards (339), yards per catch (13), touchdowns (two), catch percentage (44.8) and yards per target (5.8). Since he is set to play out the last year of his rookie deal, the Ravens could probably acquire him in exchange for a conditional late-round draft pick in next year’s draft. Dan Duggan of The Athletic reported last week that the team is actively shopping Slayton in an effort to create some cap space so they can get their rookie class under contract.
Darius Slayton with the ELITE concentration— PFF (@PFF) November 15, 2020
Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles
The 2020 first-rounder has underwhelmed and underperformed in his first two seasons in the league recording just 64 catches, 695 receiving yards, and three touchdowns in 28 career games. He suddenly finds himself buried on the Eagles’ depth chart after the offseason additions of Zach Pascal and A.J. Brown along with DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins returning. He ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine but will forever be linked to Justin Jefferson who was drafted right after him and has since become one of the best receivers in the league.
The Eagles were reportedly shopping Reagor even before they traded for Brown on the first night of last week’s draft. He still has two more years left on his rookie deal with a fifth-year option that most likely not get picked up unless his career trajectory does a complete 180. Nevertheless, he possesses speed and is a viable option at a reasonable price relative to his talent level. According to spotrac.com, he is slated to make just $1.8 and $2.4 million in base salary over the next two seasons.
Perhaps a change of scenery to a new environment could help unlock his untapped potential in an offense where he wouldn’t be relied upon as heavily. Reagor could probably be had in exchange for a conditional 2023 draft pick that could turn into a higher pick if he delivers.